Glass Engraving Techniques


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When the surface is smoothed a little the light passes through and the engraving appears grey.

When the glass is smoothed even more with rubber it appears dark, clear glass is darkest.

I will use water when engraving with diamond burs. This will keep down the dust, lubricate the bur and ensures a clean cut. It is advisable that protection is worn to avoid the dust being inhaled.

Eyes, nose and mouth need protection. Even ears need protection if engraving on a large piece of glass as it can be deafening. I also use a dust extractor.

A simply engraved little robin .... drill engraved into the back of an optical crystal block with branches engraved around to the front. I used diamond stones and rubber burs as usual. The branches are engraved deeper with lots of texture with diamond and then smoothed slightly with soft stone burs to create a darker tone on the shallower areas and then soft and hard rubbers smooth to darken the most shallow areas creating shadows.

The Robin's eye is drilled with diamond then smoothed with soft stone, white arkansas, then polished with a small bullet rubber. Don't engrave eyes too deep or the subject looks like its eyes are popping out. I have not engraved this little robin very deep to demonstrate it can be simply surface engraved to great effect.

Work textures with various sized diamonds and use rubbers to pick up the shadows of the textures. Remember the smoother the glass the the more the light can pass through so the darker it appears. The rougher the glass surface, the more the light is caught and therefore the brighter the engraving is.

Add little features like the twiddly bits on the berries, feather textures and eye lids, until last, finishing off with tiny diamond burs, eg "rats tail". Use water to lubricate whilst engraving especially with diamond burs, to ease the cut for smoother edges and preserve the diamond. You do not want to see chipped edges!!

The drill I am using here is a micromotor. I also use a heavy duty flexible drive hanging motor drill for the very heavy work. (eg carving and cameo engraving...will explain another time)

I am sitting comfortably. I have an adjustable chair so I am always at the right height depending on the item to be engraved.

I made this fun tower for all my burs in use. Above is a very small selection of burs that I would use most in a small piece of engraving.


If you only have a diamond or tungston carbide point to work with, or even a diamond coated bur in a pencil...you can still get busy engraving.

Here I have "stipple" engraved my sons . Stipple is gently tapping the glass producing tiny dots. You can also scratch lines (linear engraving).


It is important to remember a basic rule......engrave the light! Dark areas (eg: eyes) must be clear or polished glass.

Practice on a piece of black paper with a white pencil:



I have always longed to engraved a version of The Portland Vase, Click on the picture to watch the engraving of this piece:


A commission from many years ago:

Here is a 10 oz crystal whisky glass which I used 4 different engraving techniques to re-create this boating scene using the whole glass. The first thing I did was to sandblast the basics of the vessel, so that the lettering especially, has a neat finish.(second photo) . Then going back to the first photo, back of the glass, I drew with an acid resist pen and etched with hydrofloric acid paste, the sky, clouds, mountain and then the water which goes all around and underneath. In the third photo, you can see I am using a grey rubber bur by hand to darken parts of the clouds to produce a soft water colour effect. I have also used a black rubber disc in the drill and bounced it slowly along the water to create the dark speckles.

Here you see me stippling by hand with a tungston carbide point. It is extreemly sharp and just tapping on the glass produces the sparkles on the sea that I need back and front of the glass.

Here I am using white stone, then green stone and then rubber to fill in the blank spaces with half tones and then polishing out in places. It is important not to leave "holes" in the glass, by leaving blank glass inbetween.

This green stone bouncing gently on the glass leaves larger sparkles in the foreground.

So a small glass yet 4 different techniques used. That was great fun!!

OK back to some more ideas....


Yes it is a messy business !!! I use a slow drip feed system (2 way gang valve, used for fish tanks I believe) for my supply of water whilst I am engraving. If you can't find one, just sponge it on. dab the wet sponge onto a bar of soap first, this will keep the water on the surface for longer...about 2 seconds longer ...yes you have to do this all the time. I did all the years I was in Zimbabwe, I held it permanently in my left hand. The drip feed gives you much more freedom

Here is a video of a lovely little vase with a story.... follow it all on my Youtube Channel.


It is important for engravers to check for stress lines in the glass if possible. These are undetectable with the naked eye.

Stress lines are caused during the manufacturing process when the rim is being smoothed off and then they are not cooled down at the correct pace.

The process of detecting is simple, 2 pieces of old polariod film, rotated against each other in front of a light source. When they appear dark, insert one side of the glass between the 2 films. if there is a stress line it will appear as in the photo, a dark line within light lines.

Cheap glasses often have stresses further down and appearing undulating. You engrave over these at your own risk. If the stress is upset it will crack and the crack will grow around the glass along the fault. Otherwise, simply engrave underneath it.

Tip....always sign your work. Keep photos and records.

To photograph glass I use window light if i possibly can. Use a tripod and the timer if you can, to ensure a sharp image of the engraving. Keep the depth of field narrow. Emilinate dust specs and reflections in photoshop or similar program.

I hope this page helps and when I can I will add some more to it, you can also see a number of little videos I have made, on my Youtube Channel.

I am afraid I cannot answer all the emails and messages I get from all over the world, it is special to know there are so many of you learning just a little bit from my pages.

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Are you retired or know someone who is and looking for a new hobby ....

Have a one to one full day or half day lesson in glass engraving with me (using a drill) You will be inspired to take it up! Milk bottles beware!!

I teach anyone from the age of 18 upwards.


I teach glass engraving from my workshop .

I sell variety of engraving burs (minimum order £30 inc postage within UK, plus postage for outside UK). Email for details.

A great book to look for is The Techniques of Glass Engraving by
Peter Dreiser and Jonathan Matcham


Glass Engraving: Drill Techniques by
Stuart and Shirley Palmer (no longer in print)


Lesley Pyke is a limited company registered in England number 7337000

Unit 11 Henstead Art and Craft Centre, Toad Row, Henstead, Beccles, Suffolk, NR34 7LG Telephone 01502 740400

Copyright 2019 Lesley Pyke Ltd